Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Getting to Useful

Forrester Research's new twist on BI introduces the concept of the `BI workspace' (see BI Without Borders report). The BI workspace offers a use case where "power users, especially power analysts, can explore data without their IT departments imposing any limitations or constraints, such as fixed data models, security, and production environment schedules."

Clearly identified as a supporting, not replacement solution for enterprise-grade BI implementations, options for the BI workspace leverage emerging technologies such as BI and Data Warehouse Software as a Service (SaaS), cloud computing and in-memory analytics as well as more established methods such as desktop analytics.

While solving some of the significant IT restrictions that can hobble an analyst's ability to perform, the BI workspace doesn't address many of the fundamental problems that are endemic in all BI systems – the inability for the business user, whether analyst, power user, or a departmental line manager, to access comprehensive operational and financial data in real-time or near real-time.

Business users must be armed with all of the data needed to make intelligent, accurate and forward-looking decisions. In order to make data truly meaningful, we must be able to export the financial data stored in the BI cube and integrate it into a larger warehouse that includes operational data. With hugely fluctuating external data, updated external data must be accessible in near-real time. If we cannot determine the economic value of a business decision (in this volatile market), how can we accurately forecast our future? As Boris Evelson, Forrester researcher and author of "BI Without Borders" said:

"Reporting and analysis are just the tip of the iceberg - it's getting data to the point where it can be useful is the real trick."

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